Most recently, Alfie Jukes originated the role of John in the world premiere of the RSC production of The Boy in The Dress at Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, based on the novel by David Walliams, and booked the role just before he was due to start training at The BRIT School. With Lambert Jackson’s concert Main Men of Musicals being held at Cadogan Hall, Alfie performed as part of the choir with his stage school where he got chance to share the stage with Trevor Dion Nicholas, Luke Bayer, Liam Tamne and Ben Forster. For his first professional role, Alfie was in the cast of Gypsy at Chichester Festival Theatre, and went on to do two further shows with them – Forty Years On and Fiddler on the Roof. Alfie spoke to us about playing John in The Boy in The Dress, performing at Main Men of Musicals and making his professional debut in Gypsy.
What was John like to portray in The Boy in The Dress?
Playing John was so much fun, Mark Ravenhill is a scriptwriting genius and I was lucky enough to portray a character with some hilarious one liners. He is of a similar age to me so I enjoyed playing him as an over-exaggerated version of myself and overall, exploring a comic role like this was just such a joy, and I enjoyed every second of it. His love of Magnums was especially exciting, until I discovered that the ice creams I would be eating in the show were, in fact, plastic!
How did you feel when booking the role?
When my agent called and told me I had booked the role, I was ecstatic! I definitely did not expect to go straight into work as soon as I left school, especially with a company as renowned as the RSC. It was all a bit of a blur to be honest, as I had just finished my GCSEs so I was already excited about the summer, and was, previous to receiving this exciting news, due to start at The BRIT School in September. It was very unexpected, but I had fallen in love with the show during auditions and was so pleased to hear that I was going to be a part of the original cast.
You performed A House Without A Mum, what was this like to do?
A House Without A Mum was the highlight of the show for myself. The whole process of putting this number together was so much fun, as we were all super involved with the blocking and choreography. It pretty much involved us going crazy around the rehearsal space until we settled on the perfect way to perform the number. The song was all about making a mess so throwing cushions at each other and dancing about on a sofa every night was just constant joy. The song finishes with an emotional end as John, Dad and Dennis come to a realisation that living without a mum maybe isn’t the mad party they had previously envisioned, so this was also nice to explore two contrasting sides to John within the same number.
With the production showing at Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon from November last year until March, what did you enjoy most about spending your time there?
The whole experience was amazing, the company were all so close and I enjoyed spending every day with the entire cast. I was lucky enough to live with four other young performers who I got on so well with – every day was a laugh and we are now all so close because of the experience. Stratford-upon-Avon is such a beautiful place and I loved living there for four months, but the incredible people I got to work with were what made this show such a memorable one for me.
How did it feel being part of the world premiere of the musical?
Being part of the world premiere of this original musical was phenomenal. Things were constantly changing in rehearsals and everyday was full of surprises which was so interesting. The process of putting this show together was nothing like I’ve ever experienced before and it was magical, seeing it all fit together – the fact that I was the first actor to ever play this role also meant I was free to explore how I could play the character, which was so much fun! The show was continuously evolving and to watch it transform into the success it became was such an amazing experience for me. Originating a role which could end up being played by many other actors in the future was an honour.
What was it like working with the production’s creative team?
The creative team behind this musical were amazing, everyone was so friendly and so involved with the cast and it was so much fun working with each and every one of them. It was a pleasure being directed by Gregory Doran – he is a pure genius and being a part of his first musical was such an honour. Everyone from the musical director, to the chaperones were so lovely and being surrounded by such talented professionals every day was incredible – it was just such a happy environment to be in, there was never a dull moment, despite our extremely long and tiring tech periods!
Can you tell us about performing at Main Men of Musicals at Cadogan Hall?
Performing at Cadogan Hall was so surreal. Singing behind such big names in the industry as Trevor Dion Nicholas, Luke Bayer, Liam Tamne and Ben Forster was so inspiring and was such an amazing experience. It was my first big concert so it definitely felt very different to anything I had done professionally before, but I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially since I was chosen to open one of the songs as a soloist. I performed there as a choir, with my stage school, meaning I got to do it with lots of my mates, which was great fun.
You made your professional Chichester Festival Theatre debut in Gypsy, what do you remember from your time in the show?
Gypsy was my first professional credit and definitely an experience I will always remember because of this. I was only twelve when I was a part of this show, but I loved every minute of it and am very happy that my professional debut was working alongside such a renowned actor as Imelda Staunton. I remember having to learn how to tap dance for the show which was great fun as I had never put tap shoes on in my life! Unfortunately, I was too tall to move with it to London, but the memories I made in Chichester were so amazing as everything was new to me – we were just a bunch of energetic twelve year olds doing what we loved.
What was it like being part of the cast of Forty Years On?
Forty Years On was a great show to be cast in and was my second show at Chichester Festival Theatre. I was part of a large male ensemble – the whole play focused on harmonies and involved a lot of choir-style singing which was great fun. I played a schoolboy part of the school rugby team in the play and one scene involved us running into the audience and going absolutely crazy, covered with mud and blood which was the highlight of the show for me. Working with Richard Wilson was an honour and I will never forget the entire experience.
How was the experience in Fiddler on the Roof?
I played a very small part in Fiddler on the Roof but being part of a large-scale musical like this was incredible, despite my minimal stage time. The music in the show is beautiful and being surrounded by such a talented cast every night was a massive learning experience for me. I played a young Jewish boy in the show and was only part of one scene, but I would definitely love to do this show again when I’m older, this time with a more principal role as I absolutely love the music and story.
Is there anything you enjoy most about performing at Chichester Festival Theatre?
Performing at Chichester Festival Theatre is always such a unique experience. The layout of the theatre is beautiful and the thrust stage is definitely what makes it so special – being so up close and involved with the audience makes every night different from the other and adds a lot more excitement to each performance, especially when you are performing the same show eight times a week. Chichester is always such a lovely theatre to perform in and I really hope I get to go back and work there again one day.
You appeared in Cuffs for BBC, how did you find your time on set of a screen production?
Appearing in Cuffs was my first time on a television set and although I was a very small part of this production, it was still a great experience nevertheless. Working on television is very different to theatre and it’s been great to work on both sides of the industry. My time on set of this screen production was great fun, and spending time in this environment was a also a massive learning experience for me. Getting to work in front of a camera is definitely something I would love to come back to later on in my career.
How did your acting career come about?
I attended Goldmans Stage School in Brighton on a Saturday since I was around seven until last year, and have been doing amateur dramatics around Brighton for a while. I have always enjoyed performing and knew I wanted to work in this industry from a very young age – I was lucky enough to get an agent through the stage school I attended, so have been travelling up to London for auditions since I was relatively young. Working professionally as an actor at my age was never something I would have predicted, but I am so thankful for where I am and am so excited for the future.
What are your future plans for your career?
I have had various auditions for upcoming projects in the West End and look forward to starting something new. This industry is so unreliable and you can never predict what you will be working on next – I am hoping to maintain my training and make sure I’m constantly developing as an actor. There are rumours that The Boy in the Dress will transfer to London, but we will just have to wait and see!
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